Studying While Stacking Cash? These Are the Best Robo Advisors for College Students

Studying While Stacking Cash? These Are the Best Robo Advisors for College Students

Fidelity Go, Betterment, Acorns, and SoFi are just some of the best robo advisors for college students looking to start investing for the future.

Nov 23

Studying While Stacking Cash? These Are the Best Robo Advisors for College Students
Passive Income

Passive Income

Robo Advisor

Robo Advisor

Getting Started

Getting Started

Getting a robo advisor in college is a great way to enter the world of investing and give yourself a financial education while you're at it. Plus, you can start building your wealth and investing for your future (won't mom and dad be proud?). 

But given the average college student's budget, you might not have a lot to work with just yet or a clear sense of what your financial goals are. That's why, when choosing the best robo advisor for college students, we focused on platforms with low minimums and minimal fees. We also looked for robo advisors with relatively low risk, since this is likely a first foray into investing, and robos that offered some educational resources.

Choosing the best robo advisor for college students

 Minimum investmentFeesExtras
Fidelity Go$0 (though $10 needed to start investing)0%

-Learning center with educational resources aimed at beginners

-Human advisors responsible for account management rather than an algorithm

Betterment$00.25%

-Savings tools and goal tracking

-Cash management accounts

-Socially responsible investing

Acorns$0$3

-Invest your spare change

-Rewards program for shopping

-Banking through Acorns Checking

SoFi$50%

-One-on-one access to financial advisors

-Member benefits like career services and discounts on other SoFi products

Ellevest$5$1

-Access to workshops and coaching

-Resources for career and financial topics

-Spend and Save accounts, plus an Ellevest debit card

Fidelity Go

  • No fee for balances under $10,000
  • Vast library of beginner investor resources
  • Investing overseen by advisors at a Fidelity Investments' company

 

Fidelity Go can offer college students an entry into investing with a well-established brand name, a low barrier to entry and no fees until an account balance reaches $10,000. While it doesn't offer as many frills as some of the other robo advisors out there, Fidelity Go does provide a vast library of articles for college students getting familiar with the basics of saving and investing, among other resources like videos and calculators.

With Fidelity Go, your portfolio is made up of zero expense ratio Fidelity Flex® mutual funds, which generally hold stocks, bonds or short-term investments. While you won't have the opportunity to contact a human advisor, a team at a Fidelity Investments-owned company is in charge of day-to-day trading decisions in your account rather than an algorithm, making this one of the best robo advisors for college students who want more of a personal touch.

Betterment

  • No minimum investment
  • Savings tools to set goals and track progress
  • Option to invest according to your values

 

Betterment consistently ranks among the best robo advisors out there, and it's likely to be a good fit for college students as well. That's because there is no minimum account balance required to get started with its basic option, and the account offers an easy-to-use interface and a number of savings tools that beginner investors can use to track their progress and investment performance. Plus, Betterment also offers a checking and savings account for those who'd like to streamline their finances, keeping everything in one spot.

Betterment has a number of portfolio options available that invest in low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The lineup of choices includes socially responsible investing portfolios, which allow you to invest with an eye towards making a broad impact or a focus on climate or social impact, making this one of the best robo advisors for college students who are passionate about investing for a cause

The platform carries an annual advisory fee of 0.25%, which comes out to just $0.25 per $100 invested — well within a college student's budget.

Acorns

  • Automatically invest your spare change with Round-Ups
  • Set recurring investments
  • Receive custom financial literacy content through the app

 

Acorns offers an easy way for college students to get started if dipping your toe into the world of investing seems daunting. With Acorns, the focus is on investing your spare change through Round-Ups, which links to your credit and debit cards and then automatically invests your spare change by rounding up your purchase to the nearest dollar. So, for instance, if you grabbed a couple slices of pizza on your way home Saturday night, Acorns would round up the $2.75 purchase to $3, investing the difference. That makes Acorns one of the best robo advisors for college students who are starting out with very little to invest.

Like many robo advisors, Acorns invests your funds in ETFs, matching you with an asset allocation based on your risk tolerance. There's also the option to invest in Acorns Sustainable portfolios. Some other features that Acorns offers that might appeal to college students include the opportunity to earn bonus investments when you shop at over 12,000 brands; the option to open a checking account; and access to custom financial literacy content powered by CNBC.

SoFi

  • No management fee
  • Access to financial advisors to discuss goals
  • Member benefits like career services and discounts

 

You may have heard of SoFi because of its student loan offerings, but the company also offers a robo advisor. With SoFi, you do need $5 to get started, but there's no fee for the creation and management of your portfolio, which a college student living on a tight budget might appreciate.

With SoFi, your funds are invested in a mix of ETFs. You have the option to set up your portfolio with certain financial goals in mind, such as that trip to Europe you've been dreaming of or maybe a wedding if you have plans to marry your college sweetheart. Plus, unlike many robo advisors, SoFi will let you talk to an actual human financial advisor if you'd like.

Beyond investing, SoFi also offers its members a number of benefits. For college students, the most relevant offerings may be the career coaching and career events that members can attend to get some pointers on brushing up their resume or getting ready for a big interview.

Ellevest

  • Investing with women and gender-specific issues in mind
  • Numerous educational resources available
  • Access to banking and a debit card that offers cash back 

 

College ladies, this one's for you: Ellevest is an investing platform that was specifically designed with women in mind, with investments factoring in gender-specific issues like the pay gap and career breaks. There are different subscription options offered, with the most basic option (which includes investing, banking, saving and discounted coaching) starting at $1 per month.

Where Ellevest really shines is in the resources it makes available to its users. You can access free workshops as well as discounted coaching sessions, and there are resources available to learn more about topics like budgeting, negotiating a job offer and savings — all topics relevant to college women preparing to enter the workforce.

As an added bonus, Ellevest offers Spend and Save accounts if you'd like to keep your banking and investing in one spot. Plus, you can get a debit card through Ellevest that offers cash back on your purchases.

Frequently asked questions

What is a robo advisor?

A robo advisor is an automated digital investing service. Typically, a robo advisor will collect some information about the user, which its computer algorithms will use to formulate an appropriate investment portfolio and manage your investments over time.

Are robo advisors good for beginners?

Robo advisors can be a great option for those who are new to investing as they often require lower minimum investments than traditional human advisors and also usually have lower fees. This creates a lower barrier to entry if you want to get started investing.

Which robo advisor has the best returns?

It depends — not only on the markets but also on your financial particulars, such as your tolerance for risk and your timeline. Plus, it's important to keep in mind that higher returns often come with higher risk. No returns are ever guaranteed, nor does past performance predict future results.

How do I choose a robo advisor?

The first step in choosing a robo advisor is to identify what your goals are and what you want to get out of the service. For instance, are you fine with just a robot or would you like to be able to get in touch with a human if needed? Are there certain types of investments you're interested in? Are there any extra services you'd like to get?

Once you've narrowed it down to robo advisors that meet your unique needs, consider each robo advisor's fees and minimums. Make sure you can afford to get started investing with the platform — and that the subsequent fees won't eat into your hard-earned funds too much.

How much money should you put in a robo advisor?

This is entirely up to you! It really depends on how much money you have available after covering your monthly bills, making sure your emergency fund is well-stocked and tending to any debts you may have. 

You'll also need to take a look at a robo advisor's minimum investment requirement. While some let you get started with as little as $1, some options can call for an investment in the thousands.

Are there disadvantages to using a robo advisor?

Perhaps the biggest disadvantages of using a robo advisor are the fact that you're working with a robot rather than a human and the general lack of customization. Some financial issues are easier to talk through with a human, and it can provide peace of mind to have someone you can meet face-to-face or call up when the markets suddenly take a turn for the worse.

If you have a particularly complex financial situation or are interested in certain types of investments, a robo advisor may not be the right fit for you. Because it is a computer algorithm making the portfolio, you're limited to pre-made portfolios and often to certain types of investments. A human advisor, on the other hand, could make a portfolio that's totally customized to you.

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